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Dr Alejandra Bruna

Team Leader

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Dr Alejandra Bruna leads the Preclinical Modelling of Paediatric Cancer Evolution team. She has experience leading and contributing to preclinical programmes using improved patient-derived tumour models. Team: Preclinical Modelling of Paediatric Cancer Evolution ORCID 0000-0003-1214-9665

Biography

Dr Alejandra Bruna is a cancer biologist with experience leading and contributing to preclinical programmes using improved patient-derived tumour models.

She is trained in molecular biology and biochemistry. She obtained her PhD from the University of Barcelona, followed by two postdoctoral fellowships at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City and Vall d'Hebron Institute, Barcelona. 

Dr Bruna developed, coordinated and co-led a translational research framework for patient-derived tumour xenografts (PDXs) and short-term cultures of PDX cells (or PDTCs) with Professor Carlos Caldas at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

Her initial work was one of the first of its kind to show PDX/PDTCs could be used as an improved and cost-effective intermediate in oncological drug development, including biomarker research.

After a landmark publication in Cell, she was actively involved in the design and coordination of co-clinical trials in close collaboration with oncologists and pharmaceutical industry to test the use of PDXs in anticipating patient's drug responses. 

Significantly, through preclinical modelling initiatives, Dr Bruna fostered many close and fruitful international and national academia and industry research collaborations.

Within this collaborative environment, the EuroPDX Consortium network of translational and clinical researchers working with PDXs was created. She is an active participant and a member of the board of coordinators. 

Dr Bruna currently leads the Preclinical Modelling of Paediatric Cancer Evolution team and continues to focus her research on gaining knowledge and understanding the use of refined preclinical models of aggressive solid paediatric tumours, namely pPDXs, in translational research.

In particular, she aims to understand cancer's adaptability responses and how these influence the choice of therapy. Dr Bruna uses simulations of complex clinically relevant models to help refine, improve, adapt and redesign current therapeutic strategies for long-term benefits. 

Paediatric cancer is thankfully rare, and its unique features as well as a lack of good preclinical models mirroring the disease have impeded clinical advances and oncological drug development.

Moreover, aggressive paediatric cancers show unfavourable overall survival rates, yet continue to be treated non-specifically with high doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy - despite intolerable side effects.

Dr Bruna hopes to advance this unmet clinical need with the use of pPDXs and pPDTCs, which, in paediatric oncology, also provide the means to explore new therapeutic interventions and the tools to better understand the biology of the disease. 

Improved and more effective treatment regimens tailored to children, studied in light of an evolutionary framework using tools that capture cancer's heterogeneity - such as pPDXs and pPDTCs - are crucial to refine current therapies and to identify new therapeutic avenues. Ultimately, they will contribute to improving the outcome for paediatric patients.

Outside of work, Dr Bruna loves to dance - she started dancing at the age of three and taught contemporary dance for many years. She also recently discovered alpine mountaineering and rock climbing.